Last year, after driving a Camaro LT powered by the direct-injection 3.6-liter V-6, we concluded that 304 hp serves as an excellent starting point. Now we can report that the six-speed-stick LT squirts to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds - matching Hyundai's hottest Genesis coupe - on its way to a 14.8-second, 98-mph quarter-mile dash. The refined howl under the hood is the entry-level Camaro speaking softly while wielding a decent performance stick, including 17/26 EPA city/highway gas mileage. Equipped with a six-speed automatic, the LS and LT Camaros score an even better 18/29 mpg rating in EPA tests.
The Camaro's cockpit has a bunker vibe inflicted by the high-rise beltline, tall hood, and a roof that curves over your ears. The bucket seats are squishy soft and lacking in both lateral and lumbar support. Releasing one lever allows tilting and telescoping of the dished steering wheel, but a clunky adjuster mechanism takes a bite out of knee room. The uplevel trim is cloth-accented and carefully fitted but not especially luxurious. The few metallic hints are paint or chrome over molded plastic.
Entering the Camaro's rear seats is a chore because of high doorsills and the absence of quick-slide front-bucket releases. There's adequate legroom if front riders are willing to compromise, but curls are sure to be squashed. Rear passengers view the world through tiny triangular portholes.
Access to the 11.3-cubic-foot trunk is through one of the highest, smallest apertures we've ever encountered. A rear-seat pass-through is provided to accommodate poles, pipes, and spears.
The Camaro's instrument panel is a peculiar mix of retro and modern. Square-cornered tach and speedometer dials juxtapose with electronic fuel-level and trip-info displays. Four secondary gauges mounted at the forward end of the console also hark back to 1969; in forty years, nothing has changed to make that location viable. Providing engine and transmission lubricant temperatures is a nice touch, but no driver in the heat of battle is inclined to search for this information.
OnStar is the only form of navigation offered. In compensation, the list of standard or optional infotainment goodies includes CD and MP3 play capability, Bluetooth, a 245-watt sound system with nine speakers, XM reception, an audio input jack, a USB port, and a wireless interface for portable media players.
The best music source is the Camaro SS's 6.2-liter V-8. Rumble and reverb are entertaining at start-up but appropriately subdued underway. The Tremec six-speed manual's shifter is reasonably light to the touch unless you're in street-race mode, when a heavy hand is required to extract peak performance. So hammered, the 426-hp Camaro SS hustles to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds and logs a 13.3-second, 111-mph quarter mile, neatly eclipsing both the Mustang GT and the Challenger SRT8. The thrill peters out at 157 mph when the speed limiter kicks in.